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10 August 2003

Tonight we are going to see "The Laramie Project," put on by a local young people's theatre. The play, based on interviews done with more than 200 residents of Laramie, Wyoming following Matthew Shepard's death, is a powerful piece of theatre which has become "the" thing for high schools to produce. It has caused a furor in some places when its upcoming production is announced.

In truth, the play takes neither a positive nor a negative stand on homosexuality. The script is almost entirely taken verbatim from interviews and it depicts the townspeople and their reaction to Matthew's death. Some people are extremely sympathetic to Matthew; others are obviously fearful and angry that there has been such an uproar over the murder and quite vocal in their condemnation of homosexuality.

That the piece has evoked such hatred among people who have never even seen it speaks volumes about the need for such a play.

It is a deeply moving statement about bigotry and tolerance, fear and courage, hate and hope. It is the sort of play that everyone should see, no matter what the feelings are about homosexuality. (I would encourage people to rent the HBO version, which is excellent.)

Homosexuality is coming out of the closet big time and it's hard to imagine that there will come a time again when gay people will have to hide away for fear of reprisals simply for daring to love--or have attractions. At least I hope that's the direction in which we're headed.

A look at the TV line-up for fall shows how casually the existence of gay people in communities is starting to be taken. "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" is an engaging piece of reality television with five guys trying to help a straight guy clean up his act and become more appealing to the woman of his choice. I've only seen one week's episode, but I found it sweet how hard the gay guys worked and the friendship that developed with the straight guys they were trying to help (and how well the project worked!)

I haven't seen (and don't intend to watch) "Boy Meets Boy," because I haven't seen any of those mating reality shows and have no desire to, but the fact that it is even on is again another step in the acknowledgement that gay people are here to stay.

On the line-up for fall is "It's All Relative" about a gay couple raising their daughter, who just got herself engaged to the son of a very Irish Catholic Bostonian bartender. I really, really hope that this show has good writers. It could be the chance to show the normalcy of a gay couple raising a child. I hope they don't go for the broad laughs and make the realtionship into a caricature (which often "Will and Grace" is, unfortunately.)

But reality TV is sometimes scary. Watching the president of the United States express his religious views on same sex marriage and promise to look into having the law codified to continue discrimination against American citizens is scary.

Watching the religion which has given millions of dollars in hush money to the victims of pedophilia and which has hidden pedophiles behind its skirts for decades suddenly trying to influence political leaders to vote according to its religious beliefs is scary. (Remember the furor when Kennedy was running for office--fear that the decisions would be made by the Vatican instead of the president--and how Kennedy assured us that would never happen? And now that's what the Vatican is attempting to have happen on a global scale!)

Watching the scare tactic used to block the appointment of a gay bishop is scary. (Did you read the follow-up on the "inappropriate behavior" Rev. Gene Robinson was supposed to have engaged in? He touched his accuser on the arm and on the back when having a conversation with him several years ago! Is any physical contact with someone of the same sex, no matter how trivial, now to be considered "inappropriate touching"???)

The ignorance of people is scary. Governor Gray Davis, in a moment when he wasn't having to fight for his political life, did the right thing and signed a bill which would ban discrimination against transgendered people.

In interview, someone who is upset about the passage of the bill pointed out that passing a bill like this would "just encourage people to try it."

Walt had the best comment--"Hey that sounds cool! I think I'll spend thousands of dollars on therapy and drugs and then I'll go have my penis cut off!"

How stupid can people be?

Homosexuality has been documented by American biologist Bruce Bagemihl as having been observed in more than 450 animal species ("Biological Exuberance--Animal Homosexuality"). Who knows what makes a flamingo, a penguin, a chimpanzee...or a human being gay? When you think of the complexity of creation it's amazing that there is as much uniformity as we see.

But what difference does it make? There was a time when the idea of people of different races together was a threat to the moral fiber of this country, when people turned away in disgust and when there were legal ramifications if two people of different races pursued a relationship. In 1922, a Virginia law said that if a black person married a white person, the punishment was five years in prison.

We've come a long way baby. I watched "Monsters Ball" last night, watching Billy Bob Thornton make love to Halle Barry and realized that not only was there no big to-do made of it, but Barry won an Oscar for her role.

It is my hope that in my lifetime I will see the same casual attitude regarding same gender relations that we now see for mixed race relations. I have a dream that one day the gay couple living next door will enjoy the same rights that their straight neighbors enjoy (not special rights, but equal rights). That children are placed for adoption based on who can give the child the most loving home, not on any other factor.

And I hope that elected politicians will make their decisions based on the will of those who elected them to office, not on the demands of religious leaders who are trying to impose their beliefs on those who are not of their faith.

(And while I'm dreaming, I might as well add that I hope that someday the Catholic church hierarchy will spend as much energy ferreting out the molesters in their ranks and seeing that they are prosecuted and that no child is ever molested by another Catholic priest as they now spend trying to prevent consenting adults from being granted equal protection under the law.)


In 1967, the Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia that a ban on interracial marriage was unconstitutional. The law was overturned in Virginia and 15 other states (14 had already repealed similar laws). Still, a dozen states had the ban on interracial marriages on their books into the 1970s, though the laws were legally unenforceable.

The most recent was Alabama, which removed the law from its books last November (2001).

~Lane Hartill, "A brief history of interracial marriage"

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